By Nick Flinn on Feb 24, 2020
My motivation at Shell Catalysts & Technologies comes from helping people achieve their goals while keeping in mind a long-term, global strategy. I’m the Regional Manager for Technology Licensing and Services within Europe, Middle East, Africa, Russia, and India. My team works directly with customers to understand their objectives, drivers, and challenges, then crafts bespoke pathways and solutions to achieve customer goals.
Most weeks I’m supporting my team at sites spread across the region, so my days vary widely. I could be somewhere hot like the Middle East, somewhere cold like Russia, or somewhere with variable weather conditions like Europe.
My key goal is to ensure that my team is creating sustainable deals with our customers that will bring tangible, value-driven benefits to all parties over the life of a project and further.
For the short term, I’m looking for ways to introduce new technologies developed by Shell Catalysts & Technologies to trusted partners, whilst maintaining focus on our conventional technologies and services. For the long term, I’m excited and proud to play a part in the energy transition, which will require the energy industry to completely rewire the energy network in new and exciting ways.
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Shell’s Net Carbon Footprint Ambition
Shell is a big company and we supply around 3% of the energy the world uses. We want to play our part and contribute to the global effort to tackle climate change as we provide energy the world needs.
We must also have a sustainable business model that is in tune with our customers. Shell cannot continue to be financially successful if it does not have this. To that end, Shell decided to set itself a challenging ambition.
We intend to cut the carbon intensity of the energy products we sell, in step with society as it moves towards the goal of the Paris Agreement. That means fewer greenhouse gases emitted on average with each unit of energy we sell – by around 20% by 2035 and by around half by 2050.
As an energy supplier, the extent of Shell’s ability to change the mix of the energy products it sells relies on customers’ willingness to buy them. A part of what I do is educating and introducing our customers to new emission reduction technologies developed by Shell Catalysts & Technologies that contribute to reducing CO2 emissions.
Over the coming decades, I hope to play a larger part in the energy transition and work towards the goal of net-zero emission targets in each of the countries I travel to.
Delivering Stakeholder Value By Optimising Operational Strategies
My commitment to customer success stems from my technical and operational expertise.
I started out in the energy industry 25 years ago as an operations engineer, then gained management experience in commercial projects and downstream and upstream joint ventures. I feel the work I do now, especially around deploying and de-risking technologies, directly contributes to both my and Shell’s objectives of more and cleaner energy.
For example, over the last four years, I’ve been working closely with a customer to bring sustainable cultural change around reliability. Improving the reliability of an operating asset has many direct and indirect benefits for the customer.
Firstly, and most obviously, the value derived from an operating asset can only be achieved when the asset is operating. Secondly, the less the asset shuts down due to temperature and pressure cycles, the more that process and personal safety are improved, which also results in reduced environmental impact. And finally, the asset can only be sweated successfully when there is a stable operation in place that enables efficiency.
Working with the customer, the challenge wasn’t so much understanding what needed to be done, but more about how to make it stick through various cultures and team dynamics over several customer sites. My biggest learning was that what may work in one part of the world will not work in other parts of the world -- or even on different sites in the same country!
I worked with the customer to give them information for them to choose the direction of their cultural change and then ensured that the communication lines across the customer and delivery teams were short enough so that when there was a need for correction, we could advise them quickly. This helped our customers to optimise their asset reliably through operations.
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Taking Part in the Energy Transition
At the moment, there is building momentum around technologies that will shape the energy transition, such as carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies and second-generation biofuels. CCS technologies capture and store CO2 deep underground, which prevents its release into the atmosphere.
Second-generation biofuels are being developed as fuels produced from waste, inedible crops, and forestry products, which can be blended with existing fuels as a way to reduce CO2 emissions in the transportation sector.
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All customers in the region I work with are interested in these licensed technologies, but fewer locations -- driven either by societal pressure or local commercial incentives -- are making movements to adopt these newer technologies. These technologies are at the start of their deployment and commercialisation and have a journey ahead of them to derisk or reduce costs.
The comparison I’ve heard used is that of smartphones -- it’s taken over 30 years to move from brick-shaped phones to the immense technology we can now carry in our pockets. The initial phones were serviceable but without the benefit of all of the innovation which followed.
My role is to bring these new technologies, such as CCS and renewable diesel, also known as Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), many of which are in or just emerging from the brick phone phase to the market and to our customers, to de-risk and reduce total installed cost whilst meeting customer objectives.
I’m an action-oriented person. The energy industry can be perceived as somewhat conservative, and it has not had to change this much, this quickly, in the past. To keep track with our 2050 ambitions, my concern is that we will have to take bold steps at a faster pace.
I wonder whether the energy industry can keep up with the pace that will be dictated by societal expectations. I look forward to working closely with our customers, understanding their drivers, and staying relevant to the energy industry as we go through the energy transition.